Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mind-Reading Computer? FAIL!

Mind 101: We Do Not Work Like That!

Computer trained to "read" mind images of words
A computer has been trained to "read" people's minds by looking at scans of their brains as they thought about specific words, researchers said on Thursday.

They hope their study, published in the journal Science, might lead to better understanding of how and where the brain stores information.

This might lead to better treatments for language disorders and learning disabilities, said Tom Mitchell of the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who helped lead the study.

"The question we are trying to get at is one people have been thinking about for centuries, which is: How does the brain organize knowledge?" Mitchell said in a telephone interview.

"It is only in the last 10 or 15 years that we have this way that we can study this question."

Mitchell's team used functional magnetic resonance imaging, a type of brain scan that can see real-time brain activity.

They calibrated the computer by having nine student volunteers think of 58 different words, while imaging their brain activity.

"We gave instructions to people where we would tell them, 'We are going to show you words and we would like you, when you see this word, to think about its properties,"' Mitchell said.

They imaged each of the nine people thinking about the 58 different words, to create a kind of "average" image of a word.

Wow. The people who funded this need some fMRIs done on their brains to see if any intelligence resides within them.

Given the near-limitless capacity of the human brain, it is the height of foolishness -- if not ouright con-artistry -- to even postulate that there is a one-to-one correlation between fMRI patterns and thought.

Given that so many parts of the human body have more than one function, it only makes sense that the same can be said of so-called thought patterns in the brain.

This is just as dumb as that portable lie detector.

But at least this "mind-reading" study can lead to some Red Dwarf-style humor:

Interrogator: Well what's he thinking about now?

Scientist: Either diapering a baby, overthrowing the government, or ...

Interrogator: Yes? Yes?

Scientist: A small cuddly bunny rabbit!

(All right then. Make up your own funny stuff!)

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